Chronic Diarrhea: How Do You Know if Your Child Has it?

child wearing diaper, Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is a common condition among children. It is defined as the occurrence of loose, watery stools that persist for more than two weeks. Children with chronic diarrhea may experience dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss. 

Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of chronic diarrhea to seek medical attention promptly. This article will discuss how to know if your child has chronic diarrhea.

Causes of Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea can be caused by a variety of factors. Infections, such as viral, bacterial, or parasitic, are the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children. 

However, chronic diarrhea can also be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and food allergies. In some cases, medications, such as antibiotics, can also cause chronic diarrhea.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

The symptoms of chronic diarrhea in children can vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:

  • Frequent bowel movements: If your child is having more than three bowel movements per day, it could be a sign of chronic diarrhea.
  • Loose or watery stools: Stools that are loose, watery, and have no form or shape are a common symptoms of chronic diarrhea. These stools may also be foul-smelling and have mucus or blood in them.
  • Abdominal pain: Children with chronic diarrhea may experience abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Your child may feel nauseous or vomit if they have chronic diarrhea.
  • Dehydration: Chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can cause symptoms such as dry mouth, lethargy, and decreased urine output.
  • Weight loss: Children with chronic diarrhea may experience weight loss due to malabsorption of nutrients from food.

Diagnosing Diarrhea

If you suspect that your child has chronic diarrhea, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. They may also order some tests to determine the underlying cause of chronic diarrhea. Some common tests include:

  • Stool culture: This test checks for the presence of bacteria, viruses, or parasites in your child’s stool.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help determine if your child has an infection or an underlying medical condition that is causing chronic diarrhea.
  • Endoscopy: This test involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera into your child’s digestive tract to look for signs of inflammation or damage.
  • Biopsy: During an endoscopy, your doctor may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) to check for specific diseases.

Treatment of Diarrhea

The treatment of chronic diarrhea depends on the underlying cause. If your child has an infection, antibiotics or antiparasitic medications may be prescribed. If your child has an underlying medical condition, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, they may need medication or dietary changes.

In some cases, chronic diarrhea may be caused by a food allergy or intolerance. Eliminating certain foods from your child’s diet may help relieve symptoms.

Prevention of Diarrhea

Preventing chronic diarrhea in children involves good hygiene practices and a healthy diet. Teach your child to wash their hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the toilet. 

Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. Offer your child a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.


Chronic diarrhea can be a distressing condition for both children and parents. It can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss if left untreated. If you suspect that your child has chronic diarrhea, seek medical attention promptly. Your doctor can perform tests to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. By practicing good hygiene and offering a healthy diet, you can prevent chronic diarrhea in your child.

If you believe your child may be exhibiting signs of chronic diarrhea, Your Kids Urgent Care can help. We offer pediatric urgent care in St. Petersburg, FL to provide immediate, quality care for your child. Reach out to us today to get started.

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